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BUT anxious cares the pensive nymph oppress'd,
And secret passions labour'd in her breast.
Not youthful kings in battle seiz'd alive,
Not scornful virgins who their charms survive,
Not ardent lovers robb'd of all their bliss,
Not ancient ladies when refus'd a kiss,
Not tyrants fierce that unrepenting die,
Not Cynthia when her manteau's pinn'd awry,
E'er felt such rage, resentment, and despair,
As thou, sad Virgin! for thy ravish'd Hair.
For, that sad moment, when the Sylphs withdrew,
And Ariel weeping from Belinda flew,
Umbriel, a dusky, melancholy sprite,
As ever sully'd the fair face of light,
Down to the central earth, his proper scene,
Repair'd, to search the gloomy Cave of Spleen.
Ver. 16. Cave of Spleen.]
"Thro' me ye pass to Spleen's terrific dome,
Thro' me to Discontent's eternal home!
Ver. 1.]" At regina gravi," &c.-Virg. Æneid. iv.
Ver. 11. For, that sad moment, &c.] All the lines from hence to the 94th verse, that describe the house of Spleen, are not in the first Edition; instead of them followed only these,
While her rack'd Soul repose and peace requires,
The fierce Thalestris fans the rising fires.
And continued at the 94th verse of this Canto.
Swift on his sooty pinions flits the Gnome,
And in a vapour reach'd the dismal dome.
No cheerful breeze this sullen region knows,
The dreaded East is all the wind that blows.
Here in a grotto, shelter'd close from air,
And screen'd in shades from day's detested glare,
She sighs for ever on her pensive bed,
Pain at her side, and Megrim at her head.
Two handmaids wait the throne: alike in place,
But diff'ring far in figure and in face.
Here stood Ill-nature like an ancient maid,
Her wrinkled form in black and white array'd!
With store of pray'rs, for mornings, nights, and
Her hand is fill'd; her bosom with lampoons. 30
There Affectation with a sickly mien,
Shows in her cheek the roses of eighteen,
Practis'd to lisp, and hang the head aside,
Faints into airs, and languishes with pride,
Thro' me, to those who sadden'd human life,
By sullen humour or vexatious strife;
And here thro' scenes of endless vapour hurl'd,
Are punish'd in the forms they plagu'd the world;
Justly they feel no joy, who none bestow,
All ye who enter, every hope forego!
It is thus Mr. Hayley, in allusion to Dante's striking inscription over hell-gate, begins his description of the dwelling of Spleen. She and her attendants are afterwards painted with force and spirit in the next 200 verses, and more. His mild and engaging Serena, her prim and sour aunt Penelope, and the good old Squire, are admirable portraits. Warton.
On the rich quilt sinks with becoming woe,
Wrapt in a gown, for sickness, and for show.
The fair-ones feel such maladies as these,
When each new night-dress gives a new disease.
A constant Vapour o'er the palace flies;
Strange phantoms rising as the mists arise;
Dreadful, as hermits' dreams in haunted shades,
Or bright, as visions of expiring maids.
Now glaring fiends, and snakes on rolling spires,
Pale spectres, gaping tombs, and purple fires:
Now lakes of liquid gold, Elysian scenes,
And crystal domes, and Angels in machines.
Unnumber'd throngs, on ev'ry side are seen,
Of bodies chang'd to various forms by Spleen.
Here living Tea-pots stand, one arm held out,
One bent; the handle this, and that the spout: 50
A Pipkin there, like Homer's Tripod walks;
Here sighs a Jar, and there a Goose-pye talks ;
Ver. 41. Dreadful, as hermits' dreams in kaunted shades,
Or bright, as visions of expiring maids.]
The Poet by this comparison would insinuate, that the temptations of the mortified Recluses in the Church of Rome, and the extatic visions of their female Saints, were as much the effects of hypochondriac disorders, the Spleen, or, what was then the fashionable word, the Vapours, as any of the imaginary transformations he speaks of afterwards. Warburton.
Ver. 51. Homer's Tripod walks ;] See Hom. Iliad. xviii. of Vulcan's walking Tripods.
Ver. 52. and there a Goose-pye talks ;] Alludes to a real fact, a Lady of distinction imagined herself in this condition.
prove with child, as pow'rful fancy works,
And maids turn'd bottles, call aloud for corks.
Safe past the Gnome through this fantastic band,
A branch of healing Spleenwort in his hand.
Then thus address'd the pow'r-Hail, wayward
Who rule the sex to fifty from fifteen :
Parent of vapours and of female wit,
Who give th' hysteric, or poetic fit,
On various tempers act by various ways,
Make some take physic, others scribble plays;
Who cause the proud their visits to delay,
And send the godly in a pet to pray;
A nymph there is, that all thy pow'r disdains, 65
And thousands more in equal mirth maintains.
But oh! if e'er thy Gnome could spoil a grace,
Or raise a pimple on a beauteous face,
Like citron-waters matrons' cheeks inflame,
Or change complexions at a losing Game;
If e'er with airy horns I planted heads,
Or rumpled petticoats, or tumbled beds,
Or caus'd suspicion when no soul was rude,
Or discompos'd the head-dress of a Prude,
Ver. 53. Men prove with child,] Van Swieten, in his Commentaries on Boerhaave, relates, that he knew a man who had studied till he fancied his legs to be of glass; his maid bringing wood to his fire, threw it carelessly down; our sage was angry, and terrified for his legs of glass; the girl, out of patience with his megrims, gave him a blow with a log on the parts affected; he instantly started up in a rage, and from that moment recovered the use of his glass legs! Warton.
Or e'er to costive lap-dog gave disease,
Which not the tears of brightest eyes could ease: Hear me, and touch Belinda with chagrin,
That single act gives half the world the spleen.
The Goddess with a discontented air
Seems to reject him, tho' she grants his pray'r. 80
A wondrous Bag with both her hands she binds,
Like that where once Ulysses held the winds;
There she collects the force of female lungs,
Sighs, sobs, and passions, and the war of tongues.
A Vial next she fills with fainting fears,
Soft sorrows, melting griefs, and flowing tears.
The Gnome rejoicing bears her gifts away,
Spreads his black wings, and slowly mounts to day.
Sunk in Thalestris' arms the nymph he found,
Her eyes dejected, and her hair unbound.
Full o'er their heads the swelling bag he rent,
And all the Furies issu'd at the vent.
Belinda burns with more than mortal ire,
And fierce Thalestris fans the rising fire.
O wretched maid! she spread her hands, and cry'd,
(While Hampton's echoes, Wretched maid! re-
Was it for this you took such constant care
The bodkin, comb, and essence to prepare?
For this your Locks in paper durance bound?
For this with tort'ring irons wreath'd around? 100
For this with fillets strain'd your tender head?
And bravely bore the double loads of lead?
Gods! shall the ravisher display your hair,
While the Fops envy, and the Ladies stare!